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Pro Stockers Can Go Out With A Bang

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Saturday, October 31 2020

Jason Line has a shot at going out with another Pro Stock championship. (Photo courtesy of Auto Imagery)

There is a fitting synchronicity to the fact multiple NHRA Pro Stock world champions Jeg Coughlin Jr. and Jason Line could conclude their stellar driving careers Sunday with another title.

Winners of eight championships between them, Coughlin and Line announced last winter the 2020 season would be their last as fulltime competitors in a “Factory Hot Rod” class celebrating its 50th anniversary. Maneuvering through the hurdles presented by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, Coughlin and Line will begin qualifications for the 20th annual Dodge NHRA Finals at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway Saturday tied for second and within striking distance of leader Erica Enders.

The three-time/reigning world champ, Enders has a 55-point lead over Coughlin and Line with two rounds of time trials remaining. NHRA officials have raised the drama level by opting to award points-and-a half per round _ 30 points instead of the traditional 20 _ throughout qualifying and Sunday’s final eliminations.

“This is a final hurrah in many respects,” said Coughlin, world champion in 2000, 2002, 2007, 2008 and 2013. “There are three of us in the hunt for this championship _ two from Elite Motorsports with Erica and myself _ and I know how much we’d all love to close out with a bang.

“Having two horses in the race is a real credit to everyone at Elite. Richard Freeman (team-owner) has put together an incredible group of the very best mechanics, crew chiefs and engine-builders in the sport. Hopefully we can finish 1-2 again. Obviously, if you talk to me, I want to be the champ, and if you talk to Erica, she’s anxious to win it as well, but we also root for each other.”

Pro Stock driver Jeg Coughlin Jr. is shooting for another championship.

Line, meanwhile, will be aiming to hand KB Racing co-owners Ken and Judy Black a season-ending championship in their hometown. KB Racing, which includes four-time world champion Greg Anderson, has earned 162 Wally trophies and eight Pro Stock world titles since its inception in 2003. Anderson, who started the team with Black and crew chief Rob Downing, will remain as their driver in 2021.

“It’s hard to believe this is it, the final race,” said Line, who enters the event with 51 Pro Stock victories. “I’ve been looking forward to it, but I’ve also been enjoying each of these last few races. It’s been an interesting season, without a doubt, and I’m thankful to have had my family with me so much this year. The circumstances that made that possible weren’t great, but having them with me out here was special.”

Line’s family _wife Cindy and children Jack and Emma _ are on-site with him during what promises to be a bittersweet weekend. After earning NHRA Rookie of the Year honors in 2004, Jason earned championships in 2006, 2011 and 2016 _ the first year that Pro Stock was mandated to use electronic fuel injection (EFI) rather than carburetors.

Health and safety concerns related to the pandemic prompted NHRA into a four-month shutdown which sliced the original overall schedule from 24 national events to 11. While events have been delayed, rescheduled and cut altogether, Line said this title should not be marked by an asterisk.

“It’s been a short season, but it hasn’t been an easy season, not by any means,” said Line, a 51-year-old native of Wright, Minn., living in Mooresville, N.C. “Every championship has meaning of its own and this year it would certainly mean something different than it ever has before. There’s definitely still a chance to win it with the silver Summit Racing Chevy Camaro and I would really like that for all of us in this camp, for Ken Black, and for Summit Racing. It would be a nice going-away present.”

Coughlin’s anticipation is boosted by the fact he has won at The Strip in 2000, 2001, 2002, 2008 and 2009. “I’m very excited,” said Coughlin, a 50-year-old native of Columbus, Ohio, living in Delaware, Ohio. “I have tremendous faith in the team and I know we’ll hold nothing back. We’ve got nothing to lose. We’ll need a lucky break along the way but we definitely have a decent chance to get it done if we do our jobs.”

Jeggie also can count on teammate/nephew Troy Coughlin Jr. as a wild-car “blocker” as he concludes his rookie year. “If there’s any way I can help Uncle Jeg win the championship, I’ll be there,” said Troy Coughlin, driver of the JEGS.com Elite Motorsports Ford Mustang. “I know we have the capability to win rounds in Vegas and if we can knockout anyone going against Uncle Jeg, all the better.” The winner of back-to-back regional championships in Top Alcohol Dragster, Troy is 13th in points after seven starts in Pro Stock.  

Jeg Coughlin will conclude his season-long “Breaking Barriers Tour 2020” at the wheel of the JEGS.com Chevrolet Camaro.

“I’ve reflected back on my 20-plus years in this class a lot in the last eight-nine months,” said Coughlin, the winner of 65 finals. “I’ve tried to use those collective memories to fuel my drive and it’s worked out for the most part. We aren’t closing the book for good. We’ll still race occasionally but at the same time I’m excited about spending a lot more time with my family and at JEGS Automotive.

“The thing I’ll miss most is the fans. Going back to the start of my career when I was racing in the Sportsman ranks, they’ve always been so supportive of JEGS and our racing endeavors. No matter what happens moving forward I’ll always be ready to help the sport grow.”

Coughlin defeated Enders in the second round last Sunday during the 33rd annual Mopar Express Lane NHRA SpringNationals at Houston Raceway Park in Baytown, Texas, proving no team-orders are in effect at Elite Motorsports. Enders is the defending champion at Vegas, where a fourth world title would give her more championships than any female competitor in NHRA history.

The event will be televised on FOX Sports 1 (FS1), including live eliminations coverage starting at 4 p.m. (EDT) on Sunday. It is the last of 11 races during the 2020 NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series. The Pro Stock title chase is one of four championships to be decided in Glitter Gulch.

In Funny Car, two-time world champion Matt Hagan of Don Schumacher Racing is the point leader, while teammate Tommy Johnson Jr. closed the gap to 42 points with his victory last weekend in Baytown. DSR’s Jack Beckman, the 2012 world champ, is only 43 points behind Hagan, the defending event winner. With the exit of John Force Racing at the restart of the season in July, DSR is looking for its 14th straight win in the category, including a clean sweep of the 2020 campaign in their Dodge Chargers.

Texan Steve Torrence, the two-time/reigning Top Fuel world champion, is chasing a third consecutive world title. Torrence owns a 101-point advantage over veteran Doug Kalitta, who is seeking his first world championship driving for Kalitta Motorsports and uncle/drag racing icon Conrad “Connie” Kalitta.

Torrence and his Capco Contractors dragster have advanced to four consecutive final rounds and five in the last six races, winning three races in that six-race stretch. It has been a spectacular run over the last three seasons for Torrence, who has earned 24 of his 40 wins during that span.

In Pro Stock Motorcycle, Matt Smith is the favorite to claim a fourth world championship aboard his Denso/Stockseth/MSR EBR. Smith has been dominant in qualifying, posting four consecutive poles and two wins during that span. Teammate Scotty Pollacheck and Harley-Davidson ace Eddie Krawiec _ a four-time world champion who won in Baytown to claim his first victory in more than two years _ are currently 78 points back of Smith. Six-time/reigning world champion Andrew Hines is 86 points back of the leader aboard his H-D FXDR.

Vegas also is hosting the final event of the 2020 E3 Spark Plugs NHRA Pro Mod Drag Racing Series season. The stop in Las Vegas also includes competition in the NHRA Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series along with the SAMTech.edu Factory Stock Showdown Drag Racing Series and the Mickey Thompson Top Fuel Harley Drag Racing Series.

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Professional point standings (top-10) heading into the 20th annual Dodge NHRA Finals presented by Pennzoil at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway: 

Top Fuel _1. Steve Torrence, 868; 2. Doug Kalitta, 767; 3. Billy Torrence, 675; 4. Leah Pruett, 670; 5. Shawn Langdon, 544; 6. Antron Brown, 534; 7. Justin Ashley, 485; 8. Terry McMillen, 436; 9. Tony Schumacher, 415; 10. Clay Millican, 414.

Funny Car _1. Matt Hagan, 842; 2. Tommy Johnson Jr., 800; 3. Jack Beckman, 799; 4. Ron Capps, 679; 5. Bob Tasca III, 595; 6. J.R. Todd, 584; 7. Tim Wilkerson, 570; 8. Alexis DeJoria, 489; 9. Cruz Pedregon, 388; 10. Paul Lee, 382.

Pro Stock _1. Erica Enders, 753; 2. (tie) Jeg Coughlin Jr., 698 and Jason Line, 698; 4. Greg Anderson, 570; 5. Matt Hartford, 547; 6. Alex Laughlin, 531; 7. Aaron Stanfield, 483; 8. Chris McGaha, 434; 9. Deric Kramer, 405; 10. Bo Butner, 398.

Pro Stock Motorcycle _1. Matt Smith, 542; 2. Scotty Pollacheck, 484; 3. Andrew Hines, 476; 4. Angelle Sampey, 447; 5. Eddie Krawiec, 424; 6. Ryan Oehler, 339; 7. Angie Smith, 338; 8. (tie) Steve Johnson, 303 and Jerry Savoie, 303; 10. Hector Arana Jr., 284.

 

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Saturday, October 31 2020
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